“For years I wrote in my basement…” Mitch Albom

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Before I put my life into the back of my Ford Escape and drove cross country, I found an apartment in my new town. I signed a lease, and arranged with the leasing agent for it to be ready for me to move in when I arrived. My mom and I got into town on a Sunday night, spent the night at a hotel, and on Monday morning I picked up the keys from the leasing office.  My mom, the antsy cat, and I drove over to the apartment to see it for the first time.

I opened the door and stepped onto the first of a flight of dingy stone steps.  And that’s when I found out that my apartment was in fact a basement unit. I filed this piece of information under things that it would maybe have been nice to know beforehand, and then headed down the aforementioned stairs. I followed the seriously sketchy stairs to a curving, sketchy hallway, past a warm sketchy laundry room, and to another door, which is actually a little bit broken so the door doesn’t latch but if you lock it does technically stay closed, making it, you guessed it: sketchy. 

Fortunately, the inside of the actual apartment has things like carpet, and a noted absence of bugs. I did however, feel upon entry that due to the single window (which looks out directly onto the ground) it felt a lot like a cave. I would have loved to have sat in the middle of my dark, empty apartment and cried, but I had more important things to do, namely: carry a carload of boxes from the curb, up three steps, around the back of the house, down the sketchy stairs, and through the hall.

My mom kept reassuring me that once we got my things unpacked and added some additional lighting it would feel like a place I could actually live. I was more than happy to start unpacking things, but I learned rather quickly that the apartment has absolutely no storage other than the kitchen cabinets. There’s no towel cabinet, there’s no actual closet (although there is a little depression in the wall with some pretty heavy-duty wire shelving that someone installed, so I have a faux-closet), there isn’t a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, there’s not even a little shelf in the shower for soap. 

A couple of days later my mother and I ventured to IKEA, and after we spent seventeen years wandering those halls I left with a bed frame with storage space, a bright blue chair, lights, and other miscellaneous things I probably didn’t need but was convinced I could not live without. Through some miracle wherein I think we defied a few laws of nature we got everything into the back of my car and drove the hour and a half back to my apartment.  Then the fun started.  

We had to retrace the path we had used to move in my boxes only this time it was with a hundred-pound bed frame, longer than I am tall.  We decided that the best way to do it was to leave the box in the back of the car, open it up and carry the bed frame in a few pieces at a time. This happened to coincide with the time of evening when a lot of other people on my street sit on their front lawns or porches and watch what’s going on in the neighborhood; I was happy to provide the evening’s entertainment. 

We assembled the bed with surprisingly few problems and then did the same with a small table and a desk. Then I unpacked things using the drawers in my bed and the faux-closet (I just pretend it has a door), and put up the lights which make it actually feel like daytime, during the day.

As both of my parents had predicted, once my things were where they belonged and I had hung pictures on the wall, the apartment stopped feeling like an unlivable dungeon, and started feeling like a totally livable, kind of homey cave.

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(The queen has claimed her spot.)

So here I am a couple of weeks in, and I think I’m starting to adjust to my new living space, but the apartment is still not without its interesting moments. The other day I decided to install a wireless doorbell on my outside door, so that if anyone ever actually wants to come and see me I would know. The problem was I needed to test whether or not the doorbell and the receiver were close enough together, and I knew there was no way I could hear the doorbell in my apartment from the top of the stairs. So I called my dad, left the phone downstairs (with the promise to return in a minute or two), ran up the stairs to press the button and then hurried back down the stairs to ask my dad if he had heard the doorbell ring while I was gone (he had).  

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(The outside door, complete with doorbell and super classy neon yellow sticky note about not letting cat out.)

Based on these first few weeks, I fully expect to discover more fun and exciting things about my apartment as the year goes on, so be sure and stay tuned. 

 

Words of encouragement I received while I was freaking out about the apartments: 

“Oh wow, a basement?  You can pretend you’re batman in your own little cave”

“Well exposed clothes hangers are really in these days!”

“You have to go up and down those stairs? Your calves are going to look great.” 

“Maybe your dresser should be a wardrobe. Then you can go to Narnia too.”

“Just cram everything inside the kitchen cabinets. People will come over and they’ll be like can I have a drink.  And you’ll say,  yes the glasses are next to my skirts.”

 

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Movin’ Out

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(This post is highly scattered; I had a hard time getting my ideas to coalesce into one solid post so it turned into a collection of all over the place thoughts on moving and where I am now.) 

Last Saturday I got into my car with my mom, my cat Tuppence, and pretty much everything I own, and drove 1200 miles across several states to the place where I will be starting my Master of Fine Arts program.

After a week of moving in, shopping at IKEA, unpacking, and learning how to use the air conditioner my mom went home. I really really loved having her and so miss her already, but apparently the people back at home were going to riot if I kept her. 

Now it’s just me and the cat.

 IMG_3801See how cute we are? 

Now it’s time for a new adventure. I know that going to school and getting a job don’t seem all that adventurous, but I figure adventure is relative, much like bravery.

Being alone is something I haven’t much experienced. My house is always loud and active. I enjoy being with my parents and my six younger siblings and leaving them was especially difficult for me.  

IMG_4046  Don’t we look fun and happy?  Clearly we don’t ever irritate, fight with, or throw things at each other. 

My apartment here is in a basement. A fact I wasn’t aware of until we arrived, opened the door and then had to walk down a flight of dingy basement steps to get to the actual living space. Being from the desert, I thought basements were made up. I’m getting used to it though. Now that I have some lights in the living room and a bed to sleep on and as long as I run through the outside hallway and up the stairs really quickly I can mostly pretend that I’m not living in a cave.

For today, I have nothing pertinent to do. A few notes to write, some drawers to organize, all pretty low key stuff. But starting tomorrow, I have to start actually being an adult. I have a tendency to become overwhelmed when I look too far forward and try to accomplish everything for the next six months in the next six minutes. So, in the spirit of eating the elephant one bite at a time, here is a list of long term and short term goals:

Long term goal (LTG): Get my MFA 

Short term goal(STG): Find the correct classrooms this week (as opposed to sitting through a lecture on intro to behavioral psychology, which, interesting as it is, probably has little bearing on my chosen career). 

LTG: Learn how to cook well, with a variety of recipes that I feel confident making.

STG: Don’t do this: 

 UnknownI should be good though because I have a pot specifically designated for ramen. 

LTG: Figure out how to handle my hair which cannot handle the humidity. 

STG: Have hair that doesn’t look like I just rolled out of bed when I go to church tomorrow. 

LTG: Learn how to get all around town. 

STG: Go back to here: 

IMG_8837 (I’ve heard it said that we fear what we do not understand. But this picture is full of things I don’t understand: water, large trees, and (I know you can’t see it but believe me it’s there) humidity, yet i feel surprisingly unafraid). 

But I guess really my main goals are to take it one step a time; to learn, all kinds of things; to meet new people; and even to get in a little bit of trouble. 

In the beginning was the Word

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All of creation is a story.

The whole universe is the Author and Perfecter of our faith authoring the perfect story. It’s a gorgeous tale of beauty and joy, of loss and depravity; a story of a light that darkness cannot understand and a love big enough to cure the incurable.

It has all the things we would consider the qualities of a good story. Noble queens and brave generals, shepherds turned kings, close-knit fellowships, and miraculous happenings. All of these elements leading to the climax of a perfect God laying down his life for his sinful and short-sighted creations because it was truly the only way to close the rift between us and Him.

God crafted this story and then wrote it on our very hearts. We are part of it and it is part of us, and it echoes in everything we do.

Tolstoy is quoted as saying: “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” But I think at the heart of all great literature (and even really terrible literature) is the Gospel. The search for meaning, connection, atonement.

Threads of the story run through comic books, romantic comedies, science fiction, action movies, fantasies, you name it. We are obsessed with ideas of redemption, resurrection, sacrifice, and justice.

Sometimes in our lives it comes out sideways, as we grasp at things we think will fulfill the story, things that turn out to be nothing more than red herrings. But all of it still traces back to the narrative created by the creator of story itself: a good God who is not only powerful and just, but also deeply creative.

It is a living narrative; one in which the characters make choices and move freely while somehow still staying in the capable hands of their writer.

This Good Friday I am reminded not only of the amazing love that was displayed at the cross, but also of the beauty and craftsmanship that this millennia-long story contains. A story that continues to unfold, allowing each of us to be a part of it, a story that starts, as all the best ones do with a once upon a time, and will end with the king  and his people living happily ever after.

Why I’ve stopped trying to pull the sun across the sky

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I have control issues. Really it’s one issue: I want to control absolutely everything and unfortunately most things fail to comply. (So as you can see it’s not even my issue.) Coupled with this is the fact that I think a lot. This sounds silly, everyone thinks a lot. But I guess it’s that I think about the same things repeatedly. Things that have happened or things that I think are going to happen. I plot and plan and play out scenes over and over. And then I fret and fret and fret. I feel responsibility for things that I couldn’t possibly be responsible for, and when those things go wrong I consequently  feel guilt for things that I didn’t actually have anything to do with.

I suppose I have always thought far too much of myself. I believe that I am powerful enough to run the world, and that the world is relying on me to do so. Growing up this need to be in control and subconscious belief that I actually was would manifest itself in fear that terrible things would happen to my family or myself if I didn’t complete certain rituals or behave in certain ways.

I fret over the future like it will change the future and I manipulate situations and believe that I can be the boss of essentially everything. And I am exhausted. The mental calisthenics involved in attempting to run my entire life and any situations that intersect with my life are so much work. I find myself deeply tired on an emotional level. I am tired of trying to hold everything together in fear that I will fly apart if I relinquish my illusion of control. It’s not working.

So I’ve decided to let the tomorrows come on their own, without borrowing trouble from them.  I’ve decided to be ok with the fact that I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in ten, five, or even one year. I have to re-decide this approximately once a day. I want to let my future career and relationships and even place of residence be what they will.  I’m not going to stop doing what I need to do (in fact I’m still a micromanaging control freak so I’m not sure this is even possible), but I’m going to try to recognize that that is where my responsibility stops. I want to send in my graduate school applications and write my papers and do my work and then I want to walk away from those things and leave them where they belong, rather than internalizing them and thinking them over and over again. I don’t intend to become lazy, choosing to do nothing but hope that things work out for the best; but I do intend to stop worrying that I haven’t ever done enough or done the right things after what’s done is already done.

I think my control issue is  a trust issue. Though I would be reticent to admit it, I seem to believe that God needs me to make sure that everything is working out the way it’s supposed to, and I’ve finally worn myself out enough that I’m willing to start listening to Him tell me that He’s got it under control.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:17

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. – Hebrews 2:8

An open letter to my little sisters

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My sisters are 18 and 8. They are bright, lovely, kind girls and I just wanted to write down  some things that I want them to know: things I’ve learned, or am learning, or learning to believe. So here it is for my little sisters and any other sisters who need to hear it.

You are valuable because you are. It’s not because you are the smartest, prettiest, funniest, skinniest, or quippiest, not because you are the loudest belter, the fastest runner, or the most eloquent speaker. No, whether or not you are or are not those things the reason you are valuable is because you are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of your awesome creator (Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27).

Have the right perspective:  you are small – Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 – but you are not unnoticed – Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12: 7.

Every morning is a fresh start. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — Lucy Maud Montgomery

Pay attention when you’re walking places. You’ll hear things like “Think about, whats-his-face out there flying a kite, electricity, x-rays.  I don’t know,” and “I don’t sound as much like Thor as I thought I do.”

Your awesome creator loves you. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39. I mean He really loves you. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Listen to people, let them be a part of your life, but don’t let their opinions rule it. “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much” – Rudyard Kipling

Sometimes people are awful, honestly, you will be amazed. Love them anyway.

Sometimes people are wonderful, honestly, you will be amazed. Especially when you’re being awful and they love you anyway.

Friends is a good show. If you think it’s not you’re just wrong.

Never stop singing, even if you’re not very good at it, even if you don’t know the words (that’s what scatting is for).

Words are weighty. Take advantage of them and choose them wisely. “Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” ― Natsuki Takaya

Don’t ever sacrifice kindness for cleverness (and you are both very clever, but with great power comes great responsibility). “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.”― Elsie De Wolfe

You cannot earn your salvation, and you do not need to try. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9. 

When you date (which you don’t have permission to do until 30/35), don’t settle. You’re worth the wait, darlings. “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.” Proverbs 31:10  

Don’t compare yourself to other people. We so rarely know what’s really going on with anyone else anyway. “Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain

Finally, eat dessert often and without guilt.

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“There is no better friend than a sister. And there is no better sister than you.” – Unknown

Some things I’m thankful for (in no particular order)

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1. That my little sister and I are the same size; it’s like I have two wardrobes.

2. Musicals: I love that there is a type of performance where people feel things so deeply that singing about it is their only option. My life is kind of like that actually.

3. The communities I get to be a part of:

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4. When its really cold out and I get to climb into my bed and cover myself with tons of blankets, and then I fall asleep feeling warm and safe.

5. That I got to spend a whole month in Ireland,

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and that I got to come home again.

 

6. Words. Some of my favorites are:

  • Perspicacious
  • Curmudgeonly
  • Effervescent
  • Evasive
  • Kitschy

7. Really good stories.

8. That there are people who are really good at math so that I don’t have to be.

9. This:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39

and this:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

An Attitude Problem (or, Future Cat Lady Traits)

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I don’t like Ernest Hemingway.

Usually when someone makes a comment like this about an author he or she means that they don’t like the things that particular individual has written.

This understanding would be a logical way to interpret my above statement.

This is not really what I’m trying to say.

I strongly dislike Hemingway, as a person.

And not just in the way that I’m thinking “Huh, seems like he wasn’t a great guy I don’t really like him.” No, I am actually irritated by the thought of Hemingway, as if this long dead author wronged me in some grievous way.

You could argue that it does really have to do with my dislike of his writing:

Maybe it’s because I’ve analyzed “Hills Like White Elephants” line by line one too many times.

Maybe it’s because I don’t like his style ( the man used “and” so many times, and I’m not a fan of the expletive construction).

Maybe it’s because I get some sort of perverse glee in disliking something that everybody else thinks is the bee’s knees.

Or maybe it’s because when I do read Hemingway it makes me feel like there’s really no point in much of anything because everything is pretty terrible.

But that’s not it (although all of the above are true), the truth is I honestly haven’t read that much Hemingway and I don’t totally hate it when I do read stuff that he has written.  I am just irritated that what I am reading and not hating is written by this guy that I have decided I would not want to hang out with (were he still alive of course, I certainly don’t want to hang out with him in his current state).

What it really boils down to is that I don’t like Hemingway in the way you might not like that girl who was mean to you in 8th grade.  I have this perception, from portrayals of Hemingway and things I’ve read about him and in his own words, that I would find him rather unpleasant. He seems sort of like a pompous, holier-than-thou, condescending, curmudgeonly kind of guy.  Hemingway (who has been dead for 52 years) bothers me, on a really weirdly personal level.

Clearly, I am absolutely insane.  I think I’ve spent one too many hours in the library. I now judge writers based not on their works, but on their supposed personalities. I perceive them based on whether or not I would want to have lunch with them (Yes to Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and Dorothy Parker.  No to the Brontës, Emily Dickinson, and obviously, Hemingway).

It would appear that I am well on my way to my life as a reclusive, cat owning writer.

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